Paul McCartney, speaking words of wisdom
Paul McCartney, speaking words of wisdom
Christopher Victorio

[Sound Guy] The Indio Index: Coachella By the Numbers

The Indio Index
Digesting three days of Coachella by the numbers

Around 150,000 people were at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio this year, according to estimates from show producers—150,000 people who are all kinda nuts.

That’s 150,000 people who willingly subjected themselves to desert temperatures at the exact time of year when the heat moves from “uncomfortable” to “oppressive.” And 150,000 people who sacrificed healthy amounts of sleep, food and water for three days. And 150,000 people who were rewarded with some of the most memorable music performances this country will see all year. Ultimately, a more-than-fair trade.

With apologies to the good folks at Harper’s, here are some other significant numbers from Coachella ’09.


Time that someone (venue management? Show producers? The Illuminati?) pulled the plug on Sunday headliners the Cure, just as they were launching into the iconic “Boys Don’t Cry” as part of their third encore (two hours, 18 minutes and one day past “10:15 Saturday Night”). True pros, Robert Smith (who at this point looks like a fat, old Russell Brand but has held up rather well vocally) and company kept going even though no one could really hear them, traditionally an important element of a concert. They followed with “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” also from 1980’s Boys Don’t Cry album, and got the stage lights and big-screen projectors shut off on them. A weird, unfortunate end to a great festival. Instinctively, it feels like a dick move on the part of the show runners, but there’s always more to it than that. (Keep reading.)

Amount, according to Palm Springs ABC affiliate KESQ, that Coachella promoters Goldenvoice are subject to be fined per minute for each day that went over the established curfew of midnight. Seeing as how Paul McCartney went to 12:54, Saturday with the Killers ended 30 over, and the Cure got yanked 33 past 12, that’s $117,000 of punitive damages right there. Yikes.

Number of songs Paul McCartney played during his headlining set Friday night, counting each of the medleys (such as “A Day In the Life” bleeding into a cover of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”) as one. The former Beatle opened with Wings song “Jet” and followed with “Drive My Car,” but much of the first half of his set was a little obscure, including tunes such as “Highway” from his current Electric Arguments record. The look on a lot of people’s faces was “respectfully bored.” Then he got to “Eleanor Rigby” and followed up with one absolute classic after another—and did not stop, playing for a little more than two and a half hours. Despite his age (nearly 67!), that’s about how long he plays during touring shows these days, but no one really expected him to do that in this context. Hearing McCartney follow up “Yesterday” with “Helter Skelter” and “Get Back” ensured that the thousands of young and old Beatlemaniacs, no matter how tired at that late point in the day, were seeing something truly special on that California grass.

Minutes Saturday headliners the Killers played—about half as long as McCartney or the Cure. Apparently, age and set length are directly related.

“Actual high,” in degrees Fahrenheit, on Sunday in Indio, though the “heat index” was closer to a billion. (Not a scientific figure.)

Approximate number of fans onstage during M.I.A.’s set. In her third Coachella appearance, British/Sri Lankan hip-hopper M.I.A. graduated to the main stage on Saturday. Ah, the benefits of having an inescapable single (“Paper Planes”). She definitely made the most out of the space, with an elaborate show featuring backup dancers, video projection, an “M.I.A. as political dictator” motif complete with podium, Autotuned baby noises and massive amounts of objects glowing in the dark. She made it clear she didn’t want fans to think that her newfound prominence—including a much-publicized, heavily pregnant performance at the Grammys this February—equated to her selling out, and to that end, she brought fans onto the usually highly controlled main stage for an impromptu dance party during “Bird Flu.” It was pretty rad.

Minutes late popular English dance-rock duo the Ting Tings started Friday at the Sahara tent. Pretty galling—while Coachella main-stage performances tend to start a little late, the tents usually run a pretty tight schedule. An offstage announcement that flash photography would not be allowed left the affair all the more off-putting.

Infinity, give or take a few
Number of times folks made comments/jokes/observations about how loud My Bloody Valentine’s Sunday set would be. (It was, indeed, loud.)

Number of people who passed through my Motel 6 room in a span of two days for photo-uploading, bag-storing and/or shower-taking. Some even slept!

Number of dogs (not mine) that were in the room. Yeah.

Read many more Coachella musings on our music blog, Heard Mentality.


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